‘What’s Going On’ lets audience experience music of Marvin Gaye

Brian Owens never intended for his Marvin Gaye tribute show to leave the St. Louis area.

The Ferguson, Mo., resident has performed several tributes to artists including Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, but after the Gaye tribute show was booked in other locations, Owens went with the flow.

“It’s hard to be a soul artist and not be influenced by Marvin Gaye,” said the 36-year-old who will perform What’s Going On: The Marvin Gaye Experience at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 16, at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center. “He was an icon and a legend, not only with his voice, but he was a genius as a writer and producer.”

Owens has been doing the tribute show for about a year because he feels it’s important to highlight Gaye’s work.

“What’s Going On was his greatest album ever. It gives a narrative to the idea of social justice, and it’s so beautiful. I think it speaks to his genius.”

And he sees “What’s Going On” as having a timely message today as well.

The entire concert will focus on Gaye’s works, and in the concert, Owens said he’s not trying to be Marvin Gaye.

“We’re trying to recreate the live experience of attending one of his concerts,” said Owens who was only about 4 years old when Gaye died, but he’s studied the singer extensively. “He was so versatile. He could sing the blues, and he would kill a ballad.”

Owens said he doesn’t plan to spend his entire career as a Marvin Gaye tribute artist. He knows that this phase of his career has a short shelf life. He has multiple projects of his own he is working on.

Owens is a singer-songwriter whose album with the Deacons of Soul, Soul of Ferguson, was released on Feb. 24, and the track, For You, was recorded with five-time Grammy Award-winner Michael McDonald. The music of For You embodies a Motown sound.

Owens has performed at the World Series and for former First Lady Michelle Obama. He’s also been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Fox and Friends and the Wayne Brady Show.

In addition to his own music, he fills his schedule by giving back to the youth of his community through a variety of organizations.

“Through his L.I.F.E (Leadership, Innovation, Faith and Excellence) Cultural and Performing Arts, he offers education in music, art and technology with the aim of empowering youth in his community. As manager of the In Unison program and in tandem with the St. Louis Symphony, he connects young people with the city’s artistic institutions. And in October 2016, at the first of his Lunch and Learn events to connect young participants with veteran artists, he hosted a more than 100 students and some adults in a Q&A with the vocal group Take 6, in partnership with the symphony and under the umbrella of Owens’ newly formed Sterling Bank for L.I.F.E. Community partnership and emerging All Star Clinics program,” according to his biography at his website, brianowenssoul.com.

Owens said he feels blessed to lead the life he has.

“It’s letting me do work that is meaningful. It’s fulfilling,” he said.

Tickets for What’s Going On: The Marvin Gaye Experience are $42 and are available online at augusta amusements.com or by calling (706) 726-0366.

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